Happy Field Hands 1891
|Why It's Interesting|
This is the back cover of the 1891 Americus Almanac published by fertilizer company Williams and Clark for their Americus brands. It is typical of imagery of African Americans that was merely stereotypical rather than nasty. This copy of the almanac was given out by merchant Hiram Titcomb, in Farmington, ME, quite a ways from the cotton and tobacco fields mentioned here. The company also sold general fertilizers such as ammoniated and regular bone, and potash phosphate, but either the South was its main market or it calculated–or knew–that field-hand imagery resonated, or was welcome, around the country. This latter was probably the case. The South emerged in the late 19th century as the real America, probably because it received so few of the tidal wave of immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe that seemed to be transforming [threatening, by contemporaneous accounts] the nature–and complexion–of American society.
This website seeks to encourage researchers and collectors to discover and study obscure ephemera that document American culture and life. Worldcat reveals that most of the items that I post cannot be found in more than a few research libraries–often none at all. Alternately, research libraries do not bother to catalog ephemeral publications like these. I believe, however, that because these were distributed free, or at nominal cost, to consumers, they were the publications most likely to make their way into homes and be read by large numbers of Americans.
I acquire pre-1960 examples of the kinds of publications that prove so useful when scholars study 19th-Century America. The limited competition that I encounter for them suggests that libraries, which could easily outbid me, have little interest in post-Civil War and 20th-century ephemeral publications in general.
I try to anticipate what materials future historians will find useful. Being an historian first and a collector second, I organized this website to encourage others to do this too—even if this means new competition for me. I am aware that I could be wrong in prizing particular ephemera or even whole classes of ephemera. I may even be wrong to encourage scholars to study obscure ephemeral publications; these may be obscure for good reason.
Ephemerastudies.org will permit me to share with others the information and imagery that I am acquiring, and to benefit from the knowledge, intelligence and experience of other scholars and collectors. Please contact me with your impressions of the site.